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Waste regulator could be in place next year
Irish Times - 22nd September, 2006

A regulator for the waste-management industry is being considered by Government and may be appointed as early as the beginning of next year, it has emerged.

The regulator's job would be to bring standards to the very different levels of collection and recycling across the industry, which is operated by local authorities and private sector companies.

The Department of the Environment has established a high-level group to consider submissions on future regulation. Minister for the Environment Dick Roche yesterday said he did not want to pre-empt the consultation process but his "personal view", that the appointment of a regulator was the way forward, was a matter of record.

Mr Roche was responding to a report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Environment, which was critical of the diverse arrangements of waste collection and recycling across the State.

The report included submissions from 27 local authorities and 30 non-governmental groups and individuals and found the "inconsistencies" across the industry to be "staggering".

It asked how Longford as a rural county could achieve recycling rates of 57.3 per cent, while Cavan only achieved 10 per cent.

The report said there "has to be some kind of standardisation of recycling policy at a local level, guided by central Government".

Committee chairman Seán Haughey TD said it would be understandable if there was a clear urban-rural divide, but "even within these groupings there is a clear lack of consistency. This has to be addressed at Government level if optimal recycling targets are to be met."

Mr Haughey also criticised what he claimed was the inclusion of incineration in the State's eight waste-management plans, a feature he described as "irrational".

Mr Haughey said the committee had made 10 recommendations, including five top priority actions, which it believed should be implemented immediately. He called for a "complete and co-ordinated review of the regional waste management plans".

However, Mr Roche defended the regional plans saying that they were subject to constant review. In relation to the prospect of eight incinerators, he said: "The truth is we've none. Maybe when we have one or two we can talk about what the ultimate number should be."

The Minister said if the State wanted gold standard waste-management it had to have a modern waste-management infrastructure. He accepted much of what was in the report and pointed out that, through Repak, European Union targets for recycling packaging waste had been reached well in advance of EU deadlines.

Mr Roche said he would be receiving the report of the consultation body in early October and would comment further at that time.

  • Plastic waste: Local authorities and service providers should improve the clean segregated collection of household plastic waste. Awareness programmes should also be implemented.
  • Organic waste: Local authorities should review their collection mechanisms, and national guidelines in the standards and certification of compost are required.
  • Newsprint: The Government should involve the industry in managing waste, in line with producer responsibility and possibly through a levy.
  • Recycling services: Local authorities should expand kerbside collections of dry recyclables and ideally organic wastes.
  • Packaging waste: Additional Government intervention required to improve the management of packaging waste.
  • Planning controls: including national guidelines should make provision for suitable waste management infrastructure.
  • Resource recovery: The Government should investigate the use of recovery centres with an emphasis on the repair, exchange and sale of items, with a pilot scheme in Ireland.
  • Waste to energy: Particular attention should be paid to a review of the State's waste-management plans.
    Emphasis should be placed on the hierarchy which promotes avoidance, reuse and recycling over disposal.
  • Market development: The Government should review procurement policies to assess the scope for further "green sourcing" and purchasing of recycled products.

Click here for CHASE article on report.


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